Sunderland boss Ross aims to avoid history repeating against Charlton

Sunderland boss Ross aims to avoid history repeating against Charlton

Jack Ross was a 21-year-old defender with Camelon Juniors when Sunderland and Charlton played out arguably the most famous play-off final in history at Wembley in May 1998.

Clive Mendonca struck a hat-trick against his home-town club and Serbian goalkeeper Sasa Ilic made the crucial save as the Addicks reached the top-flight on penalties after a 4-4 draw.

Memories have inevitably resurfaced since the two clubs booked a repeat appearance, this time in the League One final, at Wembley on Sunday – but Ross admits he would dread the prospect of such a breathless repeat.

Clive Mendonca
Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca sunk his home town club in 1998 (Adam Butler/PA)

Ross said: “When the two teams avoided each other in the semi-final people naturally started to point towards that, but I must admit nobody has really spoken about it this week.

“I know there will be a lot made of it but we are two very different sides, and two clubs who have been involved in a lot of highs and lows since.

“Obviously we hope for a different outcome this time – and ideally a different match in terms of a more controlled game.”

Jack Ross
Sunderland boss Jack Ross is hoping to avoid another eight-goal thriller (Adam Davy/PA)

Ross, who could have Aiden McGeady available again after the foot injury which forced him out of both play-off semi-finals against Portsmouth, is confident his players can raise themselves after a difficult League One campaign.

Favourites for automatic promotion for much of the season, his side flagged in the dying stages, handing second place to Barnsley and raising fears they had petered out at the crucial time.

However, they were buoyed by a trip to Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy final and their recent familiarity with the stadium could prove a factor when they return on Sunday.

Sunderland have already been to Wembley once this season (Adam Davy/PA)

Ross added: “The way the season ended for us, we received the disappointment of not achieving automatic promotion, and we had a couple of indifferent performances.

“But I think it allowed us to take a breath, regroup, and realise we still had a chance of success this season.

“It probably came for us at a good time. In the period between the final match and the play-offs, I said to the players they had to come to terms with that and they were looking forward to these three games.

Aiden McGeady
Aiden McGeady is pushing to return from injury for Sunderland (Adam Davy/PA)

“I don’t think it (returning to Wembley) gives us a psychological advantage over Charlton – I just think with my group of players there’s a familiarity with what they’re going to feel on Sunday.

“It’s very unusual to go back to Wembley so quickly, so the memory of what it was like, and knowing how much it can affect you if you don’t control your emotions the right way, I think it will stand us in good stead.”